Milli Hill, Queen of Childbirth Gaslighting

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The title of her piece is the first giveaway, The myth of the painful birth – and why it’s not nearly so bad as women believe.

You might have thought that the hours you spent in labor were agonizing, but Milli Hill knows better.

Most pregnant women are very scared of labour. But by putting all the focus on how painful it is, are we failing to give them the full picture? And in doing so, could we actually be making labour worse – in some sense, setting them up to fail?

Denying the reality of women’s experience of agony and trauma in labor is a form of psychological abuse.

Milli’s done the math:

… In an average eight hour labour, a woman can expect to be ‘in pain’ for only around 23 per cent of the time. The other 77 per cent is ‘pain free’.

Is this woman an idiot? Would she tell a man that passing a kidney stone isn’t painful because only around 23% of the time is spent writhing in agony and vomiting. The rest of the time is “pain free!” I doubt it.

No, Milli is not an idiot. Like many people who make their money promoting the philosophy of natural childbirth, she’s a psychological abuser. Her abuse technique of choice is known as gaslighting.

According to Wikipedia:

Gaslighting … is a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances [include] the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred …

The term comes from the play Gas Light:

…The plot concerns a husband who attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment, and subsequently insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes.

As practiced by Milli Hill and her colleagues, gaslighting means responding to stories of agony, desperation and trauma by denying the reality that most women experience.

Classic gaslighting phrases include:

That never happened!

You’re overreacting!

It’s all in your head!

You’re so sensitive!

Think your pain was excruciating? You’re overreacting!

And even in ‘the nightmare labour from hell’ – 36 hours of contractions coming thick and fast – she can still expect to be without pain for around 60 per cent of the time.

Still traumatized by 36 hours of agony? It’s all in your head!

When it comes to sport, we all seem to understand just how much negative thoughts can affect your performance both physically and mentally. We know how powerful a confident attitude can be. Perhaps it’s time to consider that with birth, things are no different.

Performance? Childbirth is not a performance anymore than passing a kidney stone is a performance. How powerful is a confident attitude in treating the pain of a kidney stone or a migraine or a broken leg? It has no effect at all. Why then would it have any effect on labor pain?

Look back on your labor as endless hours of intense suffering? That’s not what happened!

The importance of words is also emphasised by childbirth expert Penny Simkin, who stresses the vital distinction between ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’.

“Many women ‘suffer’ in childbirth, and it’s because they’re not respected, or kindly treated, they don’t have the tools to cope, or they feel unloved, or alone. If a woman crosses the line from ‘pain’ into ‘suffering’ in childbirth, we’ve failed her.”

Unloved? Unloved??!! These women are peddling pure bullshit.

At the moment, we simply do not know what birth would be like for women if they were given more positive messages and went into labour feeling strong, confident and capable. We simply don’t know what it would be like if all women were given one-to-one support from a midwife they really trusted, or if we created birth rooms, even in hospitals, that were dimly lit, homely and uninterrupted.

Does Milli Hill ever listen to herself? We simply don’t know? What about what millions upon millions of women have told us since oral tradition and written language came into being? What about the fact that the people who wrote the Bible were so impressed by the agony of childbirth that they concluded it could only be explained as a punishment from God? What about the childbirth prayers from the Middle Ages and women’s own accounts from colonial times to the present?

According to Milli Hill and her colleagues: They were overreacting. It was all in their heads. It never even happened.

Milli Hill makes her money by gaslighting women, denying the reality of their experiences of excruciating pain and trauma. And that’s psychological abuse.

  • Sarah

    Milli is in the process of getting her arse handed to her on Mumsnet about now. I reckon she’s about to flounce off because people are stubbornly refusing to agree with her, so get it while it’s hot.

    https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/2884285-To-think-censorship-of-birth-stories-should-not-be-allowed

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      She’s trying to gaslight all the commentors.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Here’s my comment:

      “It seems that the problem is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that involves denying the way another person thinks or feels. In the case of childbirth, that means denying that childbirth is painful or traumatic and insisting that those who believe so have been brainwashed. In the case of an article that angers people, gaslighting involves insisting, “that’s not what I said,” “you don’t understand what I wrote,” “you must be confused.”

      When a woman says she had an excruciating labor, no one should patronize her and tell her she is remembering it wrong, or has been tricked by others who describe childbirth as agonizing, or is over-sensitive. And when a woman is angered by an article that implies her pain was the result of the way that she looked at the situation, no one should tell her that’s not what the article said.”

      • Sarah

        Told you she wouldn’t stick it! Off she fucked.

        • maidmarian555

          Managed to get about 735 mentions of her new book in though. Urgh. What a cretin.

          • Sarah

            Glad everyone saw through her. I would fish for some compliments about my accurate prediction, but you didn’t have to be a genius to see that one coming.

  • carovee

    At the moment, we simply do not know what birth would be like for women if they were given more positive messages and went into labour feeling strong, confident and capable.

    I know exactly what it looks like. It looks like nearly passing out from pain and fatigue because a bunch of numnuts convinced me to pass up the epidural.

  • Merrie

    I just can’t even with this stuff. Labor being painful is one of those things on which there’s pretty much a 100% consensus by everyone who’s ever gone through it throughout human history.

  • Squillo

    Even if what Hill writes is accurate–so what? Why should women endure severe pain at intervals when there are safe, effective alternatives? The only benefit to enduring that pain is avoiding the risks of epidural or GA, and the only person who can determine whether it’s worth it is the person suffering the pain.

    Your pain-relief choices are like your birth control choices–possibly different from mine and none of my damn business, and interesting only in the variety of options they demonstrate.

  • MI Dawn

    I had 2 essentially unmedicated births (I got IV pain meds 2x with the first labor, 1x with the second because they wanted to lower my blood pressure which was already high thanks to pre-eclampsia and I have a phobia about epidurals). Labor hurts. Back labor is a constant pain, not “60% of the time no pain”. I wasn’t stuck in bed for the first labor; I was allowed – encouraged, even! – to get up and walk around. Still hurt. I knew all the nurses, who were my coworkers, and trusted those caring for me. Still hurt. (Second labor I was stuck in bed, on mag sulfate, enjoying freaking out people with my 4+ reflexes, clonus, and right upper quadrent (liver) pain. Yes, I enjoy freaking out people. I also had fun letting the nursing students do exams on me because they rarely got a chance to see hyperreflexia and clonus).

    As a midwife, I used to tell my patients labor was like running a marathon. Ever look at their faces? They are in PAIN while running, especially near the end. But they know the end will arrive. Just like labor. It will end, either with a vaginal birth or a c-section.

    Milli Hill is full of it.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “As a midwife, I used to tell my patients labor was like running a marathon.”

      Huh, I wish! I’ve run a marathon and I would choose it any day over labor. A marathon (at least for me) is over in under 4 hours, and the first 3 hours don’t hurt at all. Only the last 20 minutes really hurt after “hitting the wall”. And even those worst 20 minutes aren’t as bad as the best 20 minutes of my labor (16 hours). Too many of my athletic friends have gone into labor believing it is “like running a marathon” and been shocked to discover that no, it is far, far worse.

      • Squillo

        Yes, it’s like running a marathon you’re forced to participate in:

        “If you wanna meet your baby, you have to do this marathon. It might be 2k, it might be 5k, it might be 10k, we just don’t know until you start running. You might run 90% of it, then have to be hauled through the finish line in a buggy. Or you might suffer a broken leg partway through, and we’ll have to set it for you right there.”

        Lucky for rich western women, it’s like a marathon with choices: “You can run it if you like, or you can bike through it, or we can give you a ride. At the end, you get to meet your baby.”

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Yeah. In other words, it’s not really all that much like running a marathon at all.

          I liken it to traveling down the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You can take a helicopter. You can ride donkeys. Or you can just jump off the ledge and bounce down.

          Regardless of how you get there, the view at the bottom is just as majestic.

        • MI Dawn

          Everyone has good points. And I get the training for marathons as opposed to not being able to train for labor. My point was more that it *wasn’t* pain-free, that even if you did “everything right (Lamaze, Bradley, dim lights, walk, tub, shower, whatever)”, because of the muscle involvement it was going to hurt to some extent.

          The area had some very pushy CB instructors who browbeat their clients with the “no pain if you do everything right” mindset, so we worked to oppose that because of the first few women we saw who felt extremely betrayed by us (because we didn’t oppose the mindset) and by the CBE. We steered our patients towards the CBE who were more middle ground, but unfortunately, at that time, Bradley was the ULTIMATE GOAL for the rich Western women.

      • Dr Kitty

        My husband was sitting in the pub with a pint of Guinness and a plate of chips 15 minutes after finishing his second marathon.
        Apart from a blister on his toe and being a bit sore the next day, he was in a lot better shape than any new mother I’ve ever seen!!

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          And for good reason: when it comes to running a marathon, you can train your body. How does one train your body for labor and childbirth?

          I guarantee, if I were to run a marathon, it would be a disaster. I would probably be dead. Then again, I wouldn’t even finish. That’s another difference between childbirth and a marathon. If I am running a marathon, and things get really bad, I can quit. You can’t quit a childbirth when things get ugly.

          • Sarah

            You train your body for childbirth by purchasing Milli Hill’s new book.

          • Roadstergal

            I’m going to hire Siegfried and Roy to train my body for childbirth with a whip and a chair.

      • Gæst

        I ran half a marathon. Can I have half a baby?

  • Sarah

    I presume we all know now that the newspaper published a response piece on the site from Cath Janes, and the hideous Ms Hill managed to get it taken down? You can read it here:

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3An6IV7Qmr9GcJ%3Astandardissuemagazine.com%2Fvoices%2Fbirth-muthas%2F%20&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

    It obviously pales in comparison to the way she bullied James Titcombe, but fuck me, she is dreadful.

    • Karen in SC

      cowardly for the news site to take it down.

  • Lion

    Strange but the rural women and often illiterate women I’ve seen give birth, who have not made it to medical facilities in time, and have not been brainwashed with this information on fear so it hasn’t been a part of their experience seem to have been in rather a lot of pain. Next time I’ll tell them they’re imagining it, I’m sure that will go down very well. I’ve had two births, one with epidural and one without and the pain I wasn’t really feeling in both of those was rather sore. Also, when I had a kidney stone, an epidural would have been lovely.

    • Lion

      oh, a little off topic, but I’m asked often, yes the pain of a kidney stone is as bad as labour. I found it comparable to labour at a about the mid way point of my labours – where I asked for an epidural with my first birth and where I asked for one but got denied it with my second birth because the nurse did not want to wake the anesthetist on call at three in the morning in case he got cross with her (yes really). The difference was that the kidney stone pain doesn’t let up at all, whereas the breaks in contractions meant I knew that each wave of pain would actually stop at some point, even though I knew the next one would come soon and would possibly be worse. I’d hardly sell the idea of labour as being fine because of those short little breaks in pain. Wow.

  • Are you nuts

    My second baby was unmedicated. She’s right- the excruciating pain only lasted an hour and a half or so. But that hour and a half- holy shit. For several days after, I would start crying thinking back on how bad it was.

    • SporkParade

      Sounds like my second labor, only less with the “bursting into tears” and more with the “reminding myself that I’m not allowed to punch family for being insensitive dolts and saying that I was lucky and aren’t I glad that I ended up not getting a maternal request C-section.”

    • BeatriceC

      My oldest child will be 18 in two months. I still vividly recall the excruciating pain before the epidural, and after it wore off/became ineffective as the doctor was fighting with an OP positioning and shoulder dystocia and trying to get him out fast enough to save his life. It was so bad that I absolutely refused to consider another vaginal delivery. My second surviving child was an MRCS even though they tried to convince me that at 32 weeks the chances of a recurrence of my previous delivery were pretty much nil. (My third was a “smash and grab” CS at 24 weeks in order to save my life, so no choice there).

  • Jules B

    My best friend had continuous pain for over 20 hours with her first, because every time she had a contraction, it triggered a muscle spasm in her back (her back is bad from an old car accident). She said the spasms were worse than the contractions. She had an epidural but it had partly worn off by the time it came to push. With her second, things happened so fast she nearly had the baby in the car – so that time, her contractions were on top of one another and there was also no time for pain relief. She still cries remembering that “natural birth” experience, nearly eight years later.

    For myself, I had eight hours of mostly manageable pain and two hours where it wouldn’t have mattered where I was, who was around, what anyone was saying or doing, because the pain eclipsed everything. I was only dimly aware of my own existence, much less the light levels in the delivery suite! Honestly, there could have been a tiger in the room with me and I would not have noticed nor cared. I was in a white hot circle of pain the whole time – until they got the epidural to work (took two tries), then I was laughing with the OB on call while I pushed. I look back on that last 45 minutes with fondness – the rest of it, not so much.

  • Fodepanda

    I had overlapping contractions. For 34 hours. I didn’t have a minute that was pain free until my medically-recommended epidural at 28hours. Did my midwife inform me what was going on? No. She instead told me I was “counting contractions wrong.” The nurse told me about the overlapping contractions after my epidural. I didn’t even know that was a thing!

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Oh my! I didn’t either. Ugh.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I had obstructed labor and much the same experience: severe constant pain until the epidural kicked in. I had a midwife of the medwife variety, though, and she took one look at me and strongly recommended an epidural, so I got away with only maybe 4 or 5 hours of pain, almost all of it from trying to stay home through early labor.

      Also that thing about c-section recovery being worse than labor? Nope. At least, not in my experience. My worst post-op pain was maybe a 5, if I really wanted to whine and exaggerate a lot (it was really more like a 4, maybe a 3). Honestly, my main regret with post-op pain is that I took a percocet when I didn’t really need it because I was afraid I’d be back in that intolerable pain space that I was in with labor. The pain never showed up, but opioid constipation did. Not pain, but also not fun.

      • fiftyfifty1

        My experience was very similar to yours. My labor with a (mildly) malpositioned baby produced constant severe pain, and then there were contractions on top of that. My maternal request CS, at its worst made me “sore” on my abdomen (a 3). And my best CS advice is to be VERY generous with stool softener.

        • Dr Kitty

          Personally I found the wound pain from the CS to be very manageable.
          The after pains while breastfeeding my second, however, were less so, but only lasted for the first 3 or 4 days.

          I’ve had the privilege of having 2 babies and not one second of labour pain.

          Having had spinal surgery, gynae surgery, a ruptured ovarian cyst and appendicectomy, a history of endometriosis and chronic back pain from my wonky spine and pelvis.The endometriosis pain and ovarian cyst pain, being visceral, are definitely the worst.

          I am a firm believer that anyone who believes that experiencing pain is a moral good can take a long walk off a short pier.

          I’ve had enough pain in my life already, it isn’t a test of character or an achievement to survive it, and it certainly isn’t a necessary part of becoming a parent.

  • moto_librarian

    I gave birth in a quiet, dimly lit hospital room. During the majority of my labor, it was just me, my husband, the nurse, and the midwife (the latter two were a mother-daughter team; daughter being the CNM). I didn’t have CEFM, nor an I.V., so there was no extraneous noise, nor any interruptions. And I will never, ever forget how excruciatingly painful that labor was. It’s been going on 8 years since I gave birth to my adored oldest son, and time has not blunted the memory one bit. It took at least 20 minutes for me to realize that the ungodly screams that I was hearing were not those of another laboring mother, but my own. And I had a very short labor for a FTM. Water broke at 6 am, no contractions until noon, son born at 5:44 pm.

    Do you know what the worst part was, Milli? The betrayal that I felt from my childbirth teacher for lying about how painful it would be. You see, I arrived at the hospital dilated to 9 cm., and had been told over and over again that transition was the worst part, that pushing would “feel good.” I know it’s an improvement for some women, but it was utter hell for me.

    You’re nothing but a patronizing bully, Milli, and a liar. Don’t you dare tell me or any other woman that we experienced excruciating pain during labor because we didn’t prepare enough or the weren’t supported enough. That’s total bullshit. I would also argue that you should seriously rethink your sports analogy. Telling boys and men to “play through” injury, particularly through head trauma, is barbaric and has had lasting consequences. I don’t need to prove my worth through birth. I have two masters degrees, a demanding career, two wonderful sons, and a spouse that I adore. All of those things are more important to me than the Mommy Olympics. I daresay that most of us are far more concerned about actually parenting our children rather than obsessing on how they were born or what they were fed as infants. It’s quite disturbing to see the number of grown-ass women who can’t seem to move beyond this fetishization of vagina and breasts.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      ship, I barely have any accomplishments and my fracking quilts are more important than the Mommy Olympics.

      • moto_librarian

        Having skills and hobbies ARE an accomplishments, Empress! I forgot to mention that I am an avid aquarium hobbyist.

      • MI Dawn

        Quilts are awesome. My mom makes them and they are gorgeous (I’m pushing for another… 🙂 )

    • guest

      My first labor was much the same as you are describing – quiet, comfortable, fully supported. I did fine with labor until I had the overwhelming urge to push but was not fully dilated so needed to “ignore” it. I was so happy to finally get to push!! Every push I was cursing everyone who said it would “feel good”. 6 years later, trying not to push when I felt the urge to and the excruciating pain of pushing are all I remember of that labor. The 2nd I insisted on an epidural just because of those 2 things. That labor was excruciating with no “break” until they got the epidural working the last 30 minutes. I was so happy to push with no pain!. I actually remember my daughter being born, but the only memory of my son being born is the relief of not being in pain. It took a good while after his birth to even care that he was there. My 3rd if there is one will be a C-section.

      • moto_librarian

        Yup. I remember just wanting it to be over. When I finally delivered my son and they gave him to me, I felt completely out of it. They took him for examination because he wasn’t crying much (he wound up going to the NICU for TTN), and I started hemorrhaging. I had a cervical laceration that likely occurred because I could not control the urge to push. We tried breathing through a couple of pushing contractions so I could get a break, and I still remember my body involuntarily curling up and pushing. I had a manual examination of my uterus with no pain medication, cytotec, pitocin, and ultimately went back to the OR for surgical repair. I relived the manual exam for weeks after delivery, and I will be having pelvic floor repair as soon as I can take off the full 8 weeks required for recovery (I have a rectocele and nerve damage; hoping that an interstim device will help with the bowel problems).

        Our second child was born after a full bolus of anesthetic (my epidural catheter had gotten displaced during transition, and I was terrified that I would have to push without pain relief. The anesthesiologist was able to dose me when I was complete). I was calm and focused, and actually watched most of his birth in the mirror. When he began having serious distress while crowning, I was able to push him out without the aid of a contraction. He needed deep suction (passed mec), O2 via CPAP, and vigorous stim, but was stable and in my arms within 20 minutes.

        • guest

          I think the ability to be calm and aware during labor with an epidural is not emphasized enough. For me, it was at least as important as the pain relief. Also, no one ever mentions after the birth if there are complications, an epidural can really make a difference in how traumatized a person can feel down the road about the whole experience. My first labor was a real eye-opener to all the BS of the NCB crowd. I had fallen deep down the rabbit hole of woo during pregnancy 1.

          • MaineJen

            Yes! As soon as the pain was taken care of, I got my personality back and was able to be an active participant again.

  • BeatriceC

    Stuff like this drives me bat-poop crazy. The world would be so much better off if we’d all just stop and listen to people. It’s not just NCB/Lactivist crap, it’s everything. When somebody tells you their experience, believe them. If it’s a negative experience, ask yourself what you can do to make things better. It really is that simple. Why can’t we do that?

    Also, totally off topic, or kind of. Baby bird formula stinks worse than baby human formula, even the specialty ones that stink more than the regular ones. And Leo is flinging it everywhere. I think my house is gonna stink like formula for a little while.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Hooray! He’s home again. Is he demanding goldfish, too?

      • BeatriceC

        lol. Yup. He sure is. Sort of. He’s nibbling them about as well as he’s nibbling fruits and green beans. He’s eating about half of is caloric needs and getting the other half in formula. Hopefully he’ll continue to eat more and more solid foods over the next few days.

    • StephanieJR

      Leo! Glad to hear he’s home. I hope he continues to improve. Being naughty is a good sign, right?

      I’ve had to give Amy the bunny a sort of fibre mush a couple of times if she has tummy problems, and it. gets. everywhere! Especially when she spat it back out. And then it dries all crusty. Eww.

  • yentavegan

    Suffering in pain during childbirth ….I think of Aquila’s mom, who was told over and over again that her pain was something to be powered through..meanwhile it was her body screaming for help and all the midwife did was give her affirmations/support…while her poor unborn child died. Pain is not to be ignored. Fetal monitoring and epidurals saves lives.

  • Sheven

    Counterargument. Milli Hill admits that in a “labor from hell” 60% of the time you’re not in pain and in a good labor 77% of the time you’re not in pain. Obviously, less pain is better.

    In a labor with pain relief, you can be not in pain for 90% of the time. Maybe even 95% of the time. If less pain is a good thing, and clearly Hill thinks it is, why not use medications that lessen pain?

  • Rivkah Rainey

    I am so proud of Dr. Amy Tuteur for being honest. Honest to child bearing men and women families. She has no problem standing apart from those who would try to manipulate brainwash and gaslight women.

  • Roadstergal

    “Most pregnant women are very scared of labour. But by putting all the focus on how painful it is, are we failing to give them the full picture?”

    I’ve had friends who have come out of labor agog at how much more painful it was than they ever could have conceived (ha) of.

    I think it’s more the other way around – women feel comfortable handling day-to-day pain, and think labor won’t be any different. In this day and age, we don’t have excruciating, untreated pain a lot, so this is a new experience for a lot of women.

    • myrewyn

      Yes, exactly that. I have a high pain tolerance for things like broken bones and when I’m getting tattooed I fall asleep on the table unless it’s over a bony part (the tattoo over my ribcage took serious focus and a skilled artist to talk me through the last bits) but labor was on a whole different plane of pain.

    • Cat

      I had an elective c-section so I’m no expert, but, when I was recovering on the ward, I was gobsmacked by the sounds coming from the women in the birthing suite. I mean, I’d dismissed ninety per cent of what I’d been told in the hypnobirthing class I (briefly) attended as bullshit, but I’d still ended up with the idea that labour was a little bit worse than bad period pain. I didn’t realise that you’d make noises that were barely human.

      • Tigger_the_Wing

        My husband said he was deaf in one ear for days after helping to hold me down for an emergency forceps delivery…

  • 3boyz

    Grr. I complain that it hurt because it f*cking hurt! With my first, I got an epidural because I reached a point where it hurt that much and I didn’t notice the 30 second “reprieve” because it didn’t matter when I knew what was coming next. And when they told me I was only 6 cm at that point I said alright, get me my epidural! Which btw did not slow anything down and did not interfere with pushing at all (pushed 20 minutes, not bad for a first).
    My second was precipitous and there was no break at all between contractions! It was insane, I couldn’t even walk. My husband was carrying me up the block towards the hospital while I shrieked my head off. Baby was born on the maternity floor but before we could get a room. It was horrible. No, I wasn’t scared, nobody treated me badly (my husband was quite the rock star through that situation), IT’S JUST THAT CHILDBIRTH F*CKING HURTS. My third was a c section (emergency, but no labor), and though that was also pretty terrible, it still wasn’t as traumatic as the unmedicated one.
    Also, regarding the Bible, it’s not just Eve. Throughout the Bible, particularly in the later Prophets, there is A LOT of birth imagery, specifically analogies about the the pain of labor. Because labor has been painful and dangerous since labor was invented. I never feared it. Nervous, sure. That’s called having a healthy respect for something that is knwon to be painful and sometimes kills people.

  • myrewyn

    Bullshit. I wasn’t afraid of labor at all, I had a great supportive partner, an OB I adored, and a homey birth suite, and it was still the most painful experience of my life (until the blessed, blessed epidural).

  • Mad Hatter

    This has been making the rounds on facebook by my natural birthy friends. Of course the title is a “poor choice” but otherwise they find it encouraging. So I’d been wondering if Dr Amy would write about it. If someone has a pain-free natural birth great, I’m happy for them. But seriously, I had the best support, an awesome medical team, and childbirth was 3 hours of intense pain and exhaustion. I didn’t get ‘pain free breaks’ between contractions after the first 15 minutes or so. Afterwards I was telling my mom I’d consider an epidural with my 2nd labor and she said I’d done it drug free once, so I could do it again. This whole natural, positive birth stuff parades as the best option, so anything else feels ‘less’ and the guilt trip for for failure or choosing ‘less’ is cruel.

    • MaineJen

      OMG. My mom, who did not one but four natural births, was the one who encouraged me to get the epidural.

      • Mad Hatter

        You’d think, right?! No, she had 5 natural births and went from the hospital to homebirth. With the same kind of short labor and intense, super close contractions I had. Glad your mom had the sense to encourage you not to suffer!

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        My mother too. As she said, she knew she had a crazy high pain tolerance (an aching finger was broken) and a low tolerance for most pain meds but she was the outlier not the other way around

      • My mom had 5 unmedicated labors, including a planned UC*. She had an epidural with number 6. She strongly suggested to all her daughters that we get epidurals.

        *My mom was a labor and delivery RN for years. When she was pregnant with number 4, we lived in Arkansas where they were still very questionable obstetrics practices. She tried to convince the doctor and they wouldn’t budge.

    • Lion

      I actually just don’t believe people who say their birth was pain free (like those who have done hypnobirthing courses and don’t want to admit they wasted their money), unless they had an epidural before they were induced and felt no contractions at all. Then I believe them.

  • fiftyfifty1

    Freudian slip?: “time is spent writing in agony”.

  • MaineJen

    “Not nearly so bad as women believe?” STFU. That is one of the worst examples of gaslighting I’ve ever heard.

    How paternalistic and patronizing. “Well it’s not like you’re contracting the whole time! You definitely get a 30 to 60 second break between contractions. What are you complaining about?”

    Who does this woman think she’s kidding? Who is actually going to believe this BS?

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Who is actually going to believe this BS?

      That was my question as well. Who falls for this shit? Dr Amy stole my line, “The people who wrote the bible 3000 years ago knew childbirth was so painful that they considered it a punishment from God.”

      Who would be suckered in? Then again, there are the naive in the world. As the last election showed, never underestimate the stupidity of Americans.

      • moto_librarian

        I agree to a point, Bofa. Given that I’m an academic librarian, I’ve spent a good deal of time puzzling about my own willingness to buy into the childbirth woo during my first pregnancy. For me, pregnancy was a deeply emotional experience. I had wanted to have children for as long as I could remember, and my wish was finally coming true. And it was very easy to buy into the narrative of a blissful, peaceful birth. It sounded so nice, so peaceful, ideal. I don’t know that anything could have snapped me out of it other than the act of giving birth and discovering how awful it was.

        I don’t think I’m a stupid person, but yes, I was naive. I think everyone is when they are venturing into something new and life-changing. I think that demanding that women and their partners be given evidence-based information about labor and delivery would probably help a lot, but that’s not how most childbirth classes are run.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Maybe, but still, never underestimate the stupidity of the American people.

          60% of Republicans STILL believe that Obama ordered a wiretap of Donald Trump

          http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/325109-poll-by-2-to-1-margin-registered-voters-reject-comey

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            You misspelled wiretapp 😉

          • Roadstergal

            Drumpf desperately wants to think anyone world look at him and say, “I’d tapp that.” 🙂

          • MaineJen

            They are unreachable. I don’t even try any more.

          • Jules B

            Good god, that is insane! 60 percent??

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Good god, that is insane! 60 percent??

            Of Republicans.

            It translates into about 1/3 of all Americans.

            Never underestimate the stupidity of the American people.

    • kilda

      so if you give someone a painful electric shock once every 3 minutes for 36 hours, they shouldn’t complain since no one’s shocking them for the 3 minute periods in between. I mean, they’re pain free 75% of that time, what are they complaining about.

      and what is it with these people and dimly lit rooms? What are they, bats?

    • RMY

      The only people i I’ve heard of going for that kind of crap are first time moms. Wishful thinking on their part.

    • Juana

      That’s actually one of the bad things about labour: every time the pain goes away, you practically know for sure that it IS going to come back soon.

      • LaMont

        Yeah, seriously, that logic wouldn’t make having freaking *hiccups* more comfortable, why would it work for labor??

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    If we were to smack her over the head with a baseball bat, would she claim that it only hurts 23% of the time? I mean, most of the time, the bat is not even touching her. It only hurts when the bat is actually hitting her…

    • 3boyz

      This just reminded me of that scene in the Lion King where Rafiki whacks Simba in the head with his stick and and when Simba says “Ow, what was that for?!” Rafiki replies “it doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!”

    • Sheven

      I was coming to make the same point. “Why are they upset about me torturing people? Fifty percent of the time I’m in the room I’m not actually torturing them!”

      Also, the fear and the knowledge that the pain will come back is part of it.

  • Heidi

    Huh, once my contractions set in, there was no turning back. Now, I don’t know that my labor was necessarily reflective of the average labor in that regard, but usually they like to put in an epidural when the contractions take a break. They had to put mine in while I was contracting. I can’t imagine being in that pain for hours on end, which is what I would have been if no epidural. While I may not have the most common experience, I have my doubts I had a rare experience, just like with my breastfeeding experience – I was in that 15%. And I wasn’t scared really at all. If I’d actually known how it was going to work out in regards to the epidural taking some tweaking to actually be effective, I’d have been a little more scared. But overall, it wasn’t scary because I knew I had pain relief options, staff who were trained to recognize and react appropriately when an emergency was taking place with either me or my baby, and access to life saving equipment and procedures.

    And what’s this BS with if it crosses into “suffering” we’ve betrayed her?! Who betrayed me when my menstrual cramps were just as bad as my labor before the epidural? No amount of love, support or other non-medicinal tools could have done anything for it!

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    She is such a flaming jerk. Sure, when you’re not contracting, you’re not hurting much (until the last bit, because ohmigerd a *head* -there-) but it’s not because I’m unloved or unsupported that i remember the pain more than the moments in which I either didn’t have any pain or “only” aching..

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    ‘”Most pregnant women are very scared of labour.'”
    Um, no. I was not “very scared”, because I trust my ob team and I knew if the pain got too much I can ask for and get medicine. Dealing with temporary pain for an end goal is why many women wear stupid shoes. Even with pre-eclampsia, I trusted my docs to keep me and my babies alive. As I joked with my ob when my toddler followed him out of the exam room when he went for the ultrasound machine (and had offered chocolate to the kid), if you cannot trust your ob for 5 minutes with your toddler, you need a new ob.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      It’s funny–DD is very, very shy around most people, but she adored my OB. His office (the bit that actually is an office–desk, computer, etc) overlooks the helipad for the hospital. During one prenatal visit, as we were wrapping things up, he asked DD “hey, wanna come see a helicopter? It’s on the pad right now!” She, age 2, grinned and toddled happily after him. For anyone else who wasn’t mommy or daddy, I am sure the offer would have been received with her standard glare-and-clutch-at-mommy routine.

  • anh

    The same women rail against a medical establishment that routinely ignores women’s pain and concerns. This is so maddening.

  • Juana

    “At the moment, we simply do not know what birth would be like for women
    if they were given more positive messages and went into labour feeling
    strong, confident and capable. We simply don’t know what it would be
    like if all women were given one-to-one support from a midwife they
    really trusted, or if we created birth rooms, even in hospitals, that
    were dimly lit, homely and uninterrupted.”

    Wow, that’s an impressive set of (pre-)escape hatches she installed there.
    You labored uninterrupted in a dimly lit, homely hospital room with one-to-one support from a midwife and STILL suffered? How do you know that you really trusted her?

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      I really trusted my docs. My room was dim enough that my husband had trouble seeing. Neither room was white, and there was a cool pattern similating a rug on the floor of the room where I had my daughter. I had one-on-one support from my husband and my best friend. Must mean I didn’t *really, TRULY* trust my husband or something

    • SporkParade

      Clearly the suffering I felt during labor was *my* fault. I was the one who chose to marry the guy who nearly died at birth and who gets anxious in medical situations.

  • Gæst

    Oh, whatEVER. I used to get horrendous cramps every month with my period, but I suppose those were just because I felt unloved? I didn’t dim the damn room enough? Pass the ibuprofen and epidurals, please.

    • Steph858

      That was the one bit of information which was missing from the sex ed I received in school and which I really needed because I didn’t get it from my parents (all the other useful stuff about safer sex my parents told me anyway). My mum ‘treated’ my cramps with various home remedies, none of which worked (tea made from fresh ginger, honey and lemon is one I particularly remember because it tasted vile). When I said this, my mum’s response was “Well, all women have to deal with them, and they don’t moan about it they just get on with it.”

      That was basically the tack taken in sex ed: “You’ll get cramps on your period; life sucks, doesn’t it?” The PE teacher (a woman) wouldn’t let anyone skip PE on account of cramps because exercise was meant to make them magically disappear (just made me feel nauseated on top of being in pain). No-one ever mentioned the idea of treating cramps with OTC pain meds, much less going to the GP.

      Since meds in my house were hidden away and very stingily given out, that idea didn’t occur to me until a friend lent me some ibuprofen. It helped me so much that I was angry I hadn’t been given it from day 1. I was still in pain, but it was manageable. I then went to the GP to get some stronger meds, and that was the end of my debilitating cramps. I wish sex ed classes said “If your cramps are very bad, go see your doctor.” Because no one told me that; everyone said “They’re not that bad, the rest of us deal with it and don’t whinge about it.”

      • Roadstergal

        Yes! Sex ed should cover both OTC and BC-related options for period pain.

        • Ken S., As Seen On Watch Lists

          But won’t that just encourage young girls to not stay pregnant? If they can cheat their way out of God’s punishment for not multiplying, our society is DOOMED!

      • myrewyn

        I missed school on the first day of my period almost every cycle due to pain. When my first daughter started her period and had similar cramps, we got her right to the doctor and on birth control pills. Some people thought I was nuts for putting my teenager on the pill — like that was going to make her go have sex.

        • Steph858

          I only have a son, but if I ever have a daughter I’ll do more or less the same. I won’t go straight for the pill though as that didn’t help me much. I did try going on the pill at one point as I got it in my head that taking the pill wouldn’t be as bad for me as taking ibuprofen or naproxen or mefenamic acid but would have the same effect, but it didn’t. It did reduce the pain, but the pain that was left didn’t respond well to pain meds whereas when I wasn’t on the pill the pain was terrible without meds but almost vanished when I took them. Strange how we all respond differently to the same medicines. I would say it must be down to genetics, but my mum warned me off going on the pill because when she went on it she suffered from every side-effect going; when I decided to try it anyway I had no side-effects at all.

          One piece of advice I would give any future daughter of mine though is to not be afraid of going on LARC. When I needed contraception for its intended purpose (as opposed to just treating painful periods) I went first on depo-provera, then later on nexplanon. I now have 3 periods a year which aren’t painful at all and are so light that I can’t justify using tampons. I don’t know why, but it seems a lot of people who wouldn’t mind if their teenage daughter went on the pill are horrified at the idea of said daughter using LARC.

  • My sister recently had a completely unmedicated childbirth (my first nephew! Yay!). It wasn’t planned that way- it was her first and it was only like 7 hours, so by the time she went to the hospital it was almost over and she chose not to get the epidural for the last bit. She labored at home, with her husband by her side, until she said “enough, we are going to the hospital, this really really really hurts”.

    You hear that, Milli Hill? In the perfect scenario, it still really really really hurts.

  • Liz

    Read the article a few days ago. One commenter wasn’t convinced so asked for some supporting evidence. A Hill fan posted information from Grantly Dick-Read for her to start with. She came back saying pretty much, um, wtf? And the Hill fan said well the book was written around the 30s/40s so you have to take into account social mores at that time. *headdesk* If a person can’t find any literature less than nearly 80 years old to support their position, and they don’t see the problem with that, run, don’t walk, from that discussion.

  • yentavegan

    and speaking of the Bible believing community…in my neck of the woods it is common practice among the very religious to have epidurals during labor in order to prevent pain and to allow the mother to maintain her composure. Eve’s punishment can finally end with her. We are no longer condemned to suffer for her sins….

  • Margo Adler

    Yeah, I guess the hundreds of thousands–if not millions–of women who died horrible deaths during childbirth since antiquity, often along with their babies, were making it up.

    I expect men to pull this shit because they can’t fathom the physical experience. When women do it (and, unfathomably, it’s almost always women) I just lose my mind. To return Western women who have access to modern medicine, even if they are uninsured and will have to pay the bills off, is not feminist. If anything, it is completely reactionary.

    Telling women their pain doesn’t exist is a Freudian trope and, furthermore, the idea that suffering is some sort of ennobling experience is misogynistic on its face.

    I haven’t had a kid yet, but you can pass me a safe, relatively sterile hospital environment, an OB-GYN, nurses, and some morphine.

  • AnnaPDE

    “We simply don’t know what it would be like […] if we created birth rooms, even in hospitals, that were dimly lit, homely and uninterrupted.”

    Yes we do, because such “birth rooms” are completely standard in, say, German and Australian hospitals. Some mums like them, a good proportion still needs medical intervention. A lot of mums still _want_ pain relief.
    Dang. Utopia isn’t all that it’s made out to be.

    Also, I recommend Milli Hill from now on only has natural (i.e., no-pain-relief) dental work and also foregoes pain relief for surgery. After all, it’s all just literally in her head.

    • Emilie Bishop

      Yeah, I agree. If Milli Hill ever has a vaginally-assisted hysterectomy, she should do that without pain meds too. It involves all the same body parts as a vaginal birth, so it too should be relatively painless, right? Personally thankful both of those events in my life were accomplished with all the relief modern medicine could give…and they still hurt like hell.

    • MaineJen

      I had a dimly lit room, my own music playing, a comfy bed and they pretty much left me alone unless I asked for help. I call BS on her whole article.

      • Karen in SC

        Yep, I had that 23 years ago. You should see these birthing suites now!

    • Steph858

      I don’t know why crunchy midwives are OK with NO2: that ain’t natural. A proper organic-certified midwife ought to have a garden full of all-natural poppies from which she can extract all-natural opium for her patients to inhale the way nature intended.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        I don’t know why crunchy midwives are OK with NO2:

        Nitpick: N2O

        You don’t want to be breathing NO2, pregnant or not.

        • Steph858

          And to think I’ve got an A-Level in Chemistry *hangs head in shame*. That’ll teach me for being too lazy to type out ‘nitrous oxide’.